Order Of Operations
So, you want a tiny house, you’re ready to do the research and figure out how to do each step… but in what order do you do those steps!? Here is a general guideline. You can deviate from this as needed, for instance maybe it’s raining and doing the roof is a hazard, maybe that day you move inside to work on electrical instead! Take this for what it’s worth and adjust things as needed. The important part is to just do a little bit every day, sometimes that is only research, that you can always fit in around the work!
Research, Research Research
If you’re like me and much of this process is new to you then the actual construction is only a portion of the work, at least half of it takes place in the research phase, which goes alongside the construction. It is not uncommon to have one work day spent online figuring out how you are going to do the physical work for the next day. (and if you are blogging your build that is a whole other project that takes loads of time (worth it!)). Even if you have done TONS of research up front in preparation you’ll most likely be doing more along each step.
You build from the ground up, in this case the trailer frame up, making sure your trailer is ready for construction is likely your first step. If you have purchased new trailer designed for tiny houses this will be pretty short. If you are using a used trailer you may have some sand blasting and welding to do. A new but not tiny house specific trailer may need drilling holes for lag bolt connections, it’s best you do this before you start building on top.
Subfloor (may include plumbing)
You have a couple choices when it comes to flooring, (#1) build on top of the trailer bed or (#2) built into the trailer frame. Both options have pros and cons to them, either one is likely your first step after having a trailer that is ready to build! (as a part of this step you should weather-proof the undercarriage and insulate your floor as well)At this point it’s a good idea to think through your plumbing system too and decided if you will be running the supply and drainage lines inside the space, under a false floor (but indoors) or running it through your floor. If it is the latter you will want to run those lines at this point too in order to save you some ‘deconstruction’ later.
Your foundation is set, you have a floor, next is the fun part, going vertical! Framing your walls is one of the first ‘big moments’ and luckily one of the first parts in your build.
The next steps can vary depending on your needs. Often times you can build indoors easily up to 12′ tall (if you have that space), it’s generally a little tougher to find a work space with a 14′ door. If that is the case you can put the roof off a little longer in order to use the indoor space longer. If that is the case just skip the roofing until after the windows and doors are in place.
Putting your rafters in place would be the next natural order after the walls.
When the skeleton of your house is in place you can sheath the exterior. (Or interior if that is what the plans call for!). This is going to make your whole house more stable. It will also be another exciting part where you can start to get a real ‘feel’ for your home. After sheathing you can take a saw and cut out the door and window openings as needed.
After the sheathing is on you will want to (without waiting too long) wrap your house. There are many sorts of building wrap. This is your moisture protection layer and is key to protecting what you already have invested in your tiny house!
For the same reasons, you will then want to roll right into the roofing. Protecting your house from the top! If you leave the structure unprotected it is likely to start to deteriorate from the weather and UV rays. This can tend to happen a bit faster if you opt to use OSB sheathing instead of other systems. Protecting it ASAP will mitigate a lot of damage.
Windows and Doors
Once your frame is up, sheathed and protected you can fill in your holes with windows and doors. This would be the third major milestone in my opinion. It really makes your tiny house start to feel like home. Relish in that feeling, what you are doing is amazing! Make sure you flash and weatherproof each of the openings so that you won’t have water issues down the road!
At this point you will probably be itching to get to work in the inside. Try to finish out the exterior and put up your exterior finish, though. This will insure you minimize all stresses on your structure and make sure you get a nicely ‘dried-in’ tiny house.
You’re now Dried In!!
Moving Inside. You can stagger this with some of the above work but I suggest trying to get to the dried in point ASAP. Then you know your structure and it’s components are sound, safe and protected!
You can work on these two together or separately. Either can be first. I think electrical goes first often because it can help speed up the process by offering light and longer work days! Both are a great next step if you are putting these systems inside of the walls. Some, like those building with SIPs, opt to run these systems in the interior of the space to have access or for ease of construction. They both go in prior to insulation. It is harder to drill the holes and run wires if insulation is in the way, particularly foam/spray in insulation.
After your systems are all run you can fit your insulation around them. You usually want to be sure to insulate the outside or the plumbing when it runs in the wall. There is less chance for freezing. The insulation is usually in the floor as part of the floor construction. At this step you can finish the insulation in the walls and the roof. Generally you want as much insulation as possible in both hot and cold climates. Typically you want greater amounts of insulation in your floor and ceiling in a tiny house. The reason being that heat rises, a good portion of energy escapes out the roof. Secondly, people tend to be most comfortable when their extremities are comfortable. Since the floor is the only surface that your extremities are in contact with you will notice much faster if it is chilly to the touch. Having more insulation in your floor will give you the perception of a warmer space.
Interior Wall Finish
After you are insulated you can finish out your walls. This is yet another step that FEELS great along the tiny house journey. This is where your space starts to take on it’s personality! There are a lot of options for interior finishes. Get creative, this is one area that you can use to save some on your budget!
If you have surfaces to paint this is often a good time. You can get real messy without taping a ton of stuff and worrying about messing up the floor etc.
You should now have a pretty ‘vanilla’ space that is starting to show your personality. Adding the millwork (counters/cabinets/built-ins) will bring it all together. You may or may not have a door or window large enough to move all of the pieces through. If you don’t make sure you build that piece inside so you don’t have a hiccup to troubleshoot down the line!
The flooring brings it all together. It is really hard not to want to jump straight to the flooring, it really finishes off the space. I recommend trying to push this one out as far as possible. You are likely to damage the flooring if you put it in to soon, even if it is taped off.
Doors, Trim, Fixtures
The work seems to go so much faster at this point. All the finishing touches like window trims, floor trims, installing light fixtures etc polish the space. You can paint what needs painted outside of the space, install it and then just touch it up after install. This can save a lot of taping and mess!
Take a day and just admire your work, then take a roll of tape and look it over with a sharp eye, mark each flaw with a piece of tape so you know there is something to touch up there then take a day to do that touch up work, this is WAY easier if you do it before the house is filled with possessions!
Move in!!! Enjoy! 😉
For more tiny house logistics check out the eCourses!